Riala has had a busy year so far. But despite opening for prog metal heavyweights, playing a festival, releasing new music, and completing a tour of the West, the best is yet to come for these guys. Haymaker Records correspondent Tommy Walzer had the pleasure of talking to drummer Morgan Greenwood and guitarist/vocalist Nick Turner about the Kansas City math rock band’s upcoming projects, DIY, oranges, and more.
So first and foremost, you guys just came off a big tour of the West Coast. How was that experience?
Nick: I’d say it was pretty good. A lot of shows turned out to be way better than I was expecting. That sounds kinda shitty…
Morgan: Same with me. I was really surprised by the turnouts at all the shows?
Awesome. People were really receptive?
Nick: For sure, and also just the sheer amount of people that decided to show up. It was impressive.
What was your guys’ favorite city to play in and why? Can you talk about the scene there?
Nick: Probably San Francisco. We played a sold out show there. It was pretty incredible.
Was that the only sold out show on the tour?
Nick: I guess it depends on what you consider sold out. In Denton (TX) we also had like 200 kids show up, it was a house venue though, so it wasn’t “sold out.”
Morgan: Way over the fire limit though.
That’s pretty good. If you get dangerous conditions that’s always a plus.
Nick: It adds a certain intensity to the show for sure!
So you played some house shows in addition to actual venues?
Morgan: Ya, I’d say maybe a third or so, maybe half at the most.
Did you like those better than the venues?
Morgan: I mean I think it’d be hard to objectively say whether we preferred one over the other. They definitely have different dynamics, each of which I think we appreciate on some level. I think at a house show, the atmosphere is way more relaxed and people are generally there to just sort of “turn up,” if you will, and party. House shows are generally really relaxed. The people wanna come out and party but they were also super supportive, especially in a city like Denton because it’s such a music and art focused city. The kids there are really like, about everything, which is really cool. So that’s sort of juxtaposed by like, real venues, if you will. It’s cool to be a little more structured, and also you’re working with a sound guy and a promoter and all that. So everything is going pretty strictly by the books. And the people that are there, they’re obviously trying to party and drink too, but the atmosphere is a little different. But I think they’re both valid and I think they’re both fun, just in different ways.
So at the house shows, was it more like a straight up DIY kinda thing, or do the hosts there help you with your gear and sound and all that?
Morgan: I mean, people who own the space obviously were running the show, so they always had that on their plate. Certainly more DIY, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. There’s nothing less valid about that.
Nick: It really depends on which house show though. Like Denton was done really really professionally actually. They were really strict about time and stuff, which actually worked out pretty well. But compared to Albuquerque, which was also a house show, they were way more relaxed. And we had guys running sound for us and sort of helping us out with the gear [for the Albuquerque show]. But as far as the time allotments, it was way more chill.
Awesome. Another thing I was wondering about…You guys have a pretty good relationship with Kansas City natives Via Luna. I know they were on that tour with you and you also released a split with them not too long ago. How’d you guys originally meet?
Morgan: Umm, I think I was probably the first one to meet them. I was just sort of walking around one night, cruising through Westport, and I heard them playing at Harling’s. It was like an upstairs bar that used to do shows. But their windows are open so you can always hear the music on the street whenever you’re walking past. And I was like, “This actually sounds pretty cool!” I don’t know…I feel like based on the kind of music that we are, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find music in Kansas City that is like, similar on some level. And I think both bands respectively sort of realized that, and so we got along pretty well. But they’re also just pretty good dudes, you know? They’re fun to chill with, so it works out pretty well.
So as of now you guys have eight songs, if I’m correct. What was your set list like on tour? Did you just play through all those? Any favorites to play?
Morgan: We’re mostly playing some new music actually. We just put out that split, which was the first song we wrote after our record. I’d say it’s probably 60/40 new material to old material because we try to always move forward. That’s sort of what we’re about. We just finished writing this new record and we’ll get back to recording hopefully in the fall.
Ya, I was gonna ask you, I mean what’s your new material looking like? Have you tested any of it on the road?
Morgan: Oh ya. I think this trip was probably the first time we played a couple songs out at least more than once. You know, there’s always like that first show where you kind of try stuff out and see if it actually works in the context of performance instead of just practice. And that happens at home I feel like. But I think a lot of these songs kind of found their legs while we were on the road.
Cool. So what can we expect, you said a new record or an EP in the fall? What’s that gonna look like?
Morgan: We’re trying to do a full-length.
Nick: We’re kind of hesitant. I think we sort of like writing…
Morgan: I think the goal is a full-length. In this day and age I think it can be beneficial to just put music out quickly, in a sense. So I don’t know. I mean we have friends who sort of go the route of just putting out an EP every year, which is actually a pretty good idea on some level. But I also do like the idea of having that sort of cumulative work, which is what a full-length tends more to be.
Well I’ll definitely be keeping an eye and an ear out for that. So let’s talk more about life on tour. What’s something that each of you can’t live without while on the road?
Nick: Uhhhh…I mean…oranges I’d say, probably.
Nick: Oranges, ya. Vitamin C is necessary, man.
Absolutely. You don’t want to get like, scurvy or anything.
Nick: Well, you’re in this very confined space, traveling. It’s basically like a boat and you’re going across the ocean. You used the metaphor, and it’s very likely that you will get scurvy if you don’t have a good supply of, (laughs) if you don’t have a good supply of fruit on hand, ya.
Does anywhere you went have particularly tasty oranges?
Nick: Ok, well there was this very odd experience when we were going into California, and they have a border guard there. Like, he’s stopping us at an entire checkpoint where you have to pull up and talk to this kind of cop character. And the only thing he asks you is if you have any fruit or vegetables in your vehicle. And I guess I had been in Arizona when I bought the oranges. They were especially tasty, to answer your question. Arizona has especially tasty oranges. They were delicious, but we had to explain that we had three oranges from Arizona when we went into California.
And was that a big deal for them?
Nick: I guess so. I think what it is, is that they have a really bad problem with invasive species. So if the oranges could have been grown in a specific area that has a lot of problems, then there would be more likely to be problems in the California crops and it might destroy them I guess.
Alright well, oranges, that’s a good choice…so a while back I saw that you guys got the opportunity to open for two incredible bands, Chon and Polyphia. What do you guys think of those guys, and did you get to meet any of them? Any advice they gave you?
Nick: I mean the experience was pretty dope. It was kind of one of those dream-come-true kind of moments in a lot of ways. But ya I mean that was like our first sold out show, and we had another one on tour. But that one was pretty nuts. It was my first time playing to like 200-250 kids. That one was like mind-blowing, you know? I guess on like a personal level, I was backstage and was talking to all of them. They were pretty good dudes. I just sort of chilled and shot the shit before Chon went on.
I guess going off that, what kind of music do you guys listen to to draw inspiration from?
Nick: My kind of general answer to this question is that I try to get something out of everything, basically. This is really dumbing it down, but if you think of listening to music or taking in any kind of art, you’re basically taking in information. So if you focus on a specific genre or specific artist in your own listening, you’re gonna be getting more of that information to yourself, and that’s gonna come out whether you intend to or in ways that you’re not quite sure of. But I try to kind of make that intentional in my own listening. So if I find something I’m really interested in, I try to find out why. And there might be some intensive…like, not research, but that’s kind of the word I’m looking for here. But as far as specific artists and stuff, there’s nothing that I can really think of off hand honestly. I’m listening to a lot of ambient and drone electronic music right now, so that’s kind of where my head’s at.
Any shows that you’ve gone to recently that have turned you on to new music or inspired you in any sort of way, or artists that you’d recommend seeing?
Morgan: I saw Vince Staples at Middle of the Map Fest and that was incredible! I was very into that. And Com Truise and STRFKR was pretty dope too.
Didn’t you guys perform at Middle of the Map too?
Morgan: Ya we did.
Nick: We played on Saturday.
How was that?
Morgan: It was really cool. It’s always nice to play one of those things for a lot of different people in Kansas City. It was a lot of fun. A lot of people were all kickin’ it and supporting each other. It was a pretty fun experience for sure. And a lot of it was that it was our tour kickoff because we left like two days after that. So it was a better one, a better tour kickoff.
Awesome. Any closing remarks from you guys?
Morgan: Eat more yams.
[[[Interview by Tommy Walzer]]]